A Noachian source region for the “Black Beauty” meteorite, and a source lithology for Mars surface hydrated dust?

Beck P et al.

Earth and Planetary Science Letters 427, 104–111


The Martian surface is covered by a fine-layer of oxidized dust responsible for its red color in the visible spectral range ( and ). In the near infrared, the strongest spectral feature is located between 2.6 and 3.6 μm and is ubiquitously observed on the planet ( and ). Although this absorption has been studied for many decades, its exact attribution and its geological and climatic implications remain debated. We present new lines of evidence from laboratory experiments, orbital and landed missions data, and characterization of the unique Martian meteorite NWA 7533, all converging toward the prominent role of hydroxylated ferric minerals. Martian breccias (so-called “Black Beauty” meteorite NWA7034 and its paired stones NWA7533 and NWA 7455) are unique pieces of the Martian surface that display abundant evidence of aqueous alteration that occurred on their parent planet (Agee et al., 2013). These dark stones are also unique in the fact that they arose from a near surface level in the Noachian southern hemisphere (Humayun et al., 2013). We used IR spectroscopy, Fe-XANES and petrography to identify the mineral hosts of hydrogen in NWA 7533 and compare them with observations of the Martian surface and results of laboratory experiments. The spectrum of NWA 7533 does not show mafic mineral absorptions, making its definite identification difficult through NIR remote sensing mapping. However, its spectra are virtually consistent with a large fraction of the Martian highlands. Abundant NWA 7034/7533 (and paired samples) lithologies might abound on Mars and might play a role in the dust production mechanism.